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Ohio Players bring funk to the Oklahoma State Fair

Ohio Players, a nine-member funk band from the '70s, will play Friday night at the Oklahoma State Fair.
BY GEORGE LANG glang@opubco.com Published: September 20, 2013
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Clarence “Chet” Willis of the Ohio Players boarded the famed funk band's “Love Rollercoaster” 38 years ago, and the guitarist still likes the twists and turns of touring. The nine-piece group known for that classic as well as “Skin Tight,” “Jive Turkey” and “Fire,” will turn the Chickasaw Entertainment Stage into a sweaty dance party during a free show at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Oklahoma State Fair.

“It starts up high energy and it ends with high energy,” Willis said in a telephone interview from his home base in Atlanta. “Like that song of ours, it's like a roller-coaster ride.”

The Ohio Players' history predates funk by a long shot: the group's roots go back to 1959 when they started as the Ohio Untouchables. But like some of their contemporaries such as New Jersey's The Parliaments, they adapted with the times, and by the late 1960s, both of those bands had more funk-ready names: The Ohio Players and Parliament.

Dayton, Ohio, had an unusually high number of funk bands per capita. In addition to the Ohio Players, that industrial city also produced Bootsy's Rubber Band, Zapp, Heatwave, Slave, Lakeside and the Dazz Band. If it was funk coming out of a radio speaker in 1977, there was a strong chance it had a Dayton pedigree.

“I don't know if there was something in the water or what, but there was quite a few funk bands that came out of Dayton in the '70s,” Willis said. “When you look at a city as small as Dayton, you think, ‘How could a city like this produce as many as seven great funk groups?'”

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